March 16, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 86  

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Matthew Barber
The Story of Your Life EP

Is Toronto singer-songwriter Matthew Barber the next Sam Roberts? The folks at Warner sure hope so — like Universal’s strategy with Mr. Roberts, the first major-label release by Barber is a six-song EP that hopes to set the Can-rock world on fire before the proper full-length record expected in the fall.

Although The Story of Your Life EP certainly has songs that can match the quality of Roberts’ first couple of singles, it’s difficult to say whether the typical bearded, Labatt Blue-guzzling Canadian will latch onto Barber’s tunes, which, at times, lean more towards a Brit-pop approach similar to Hawskley Workman’s latest output. The closest Barber comes to Roberts is on the rollicking blues-rocker “Sentimental Acumen,” which might even be closer to the ’80s rock anthems of Bruce Springsteen with its jumpy piano-backed riffs.

Elsewhere, Barber’s versatile voice ranges from acidic on the whiskey-washed, reggae-soul of “Tilt-A-Whirl,” to playfully loose on the catchy theatrical romper “We’re Gonna Play,” on which he quirkily yearns, “I want you for my breakfast/And I want you for my lunch/And when I sleep in on the weekend, I want you for my brunch.” He even fits in a gorgeously bright country number as the title track, to feature his aptitude for smooth, Blue Rodeo-esque harmonizing.

After spending a year as Canadian indie’s It boy, Barber’s solid work on the EP indicates the story’s just beginning.

—Brian Wong

Throw Down the Reigns
Nettwerk Productions

Vancouver’s Panurge is a much needed breath of fresh air. If you’re looking for an album to listen to on a warm spring day, Throw Down the Reins will satisfy. Panurge offer a mix of music both upbeat and laid-back. The band adopts the indie aesthetic, yet adds a dose of originality by blending other sounds.

The first track, “Sweet Fanny Annie,” is the epitome of a head-bopper with harps in the background. But then there are tracks like “Faux Pal” and “No Thank You” that are about a minute long and are segue into the next song.

“Thirty Silver” is the last track on the album and is about as “mainstream” as it gets, which is even a stretch. Reminiscent of Beck’s experimentation, Panurge successfully creates a sound that not only puts life back into the indie genre but also create a genre all its own. It’s hard to pinpoint the category this might fall into, but you’ll love the eclecticism.

—Ash Wittig

The Indigo Girls
All That We Let In
Epic Records

With a political agenda evident in their harmonies and unbelievable vocal lines, it’s clear The Indigo Girls are still practicing their feminist activism on their ninth album, All That We Let In.

The Girls’ Georgia roots are apparent in their beautiful melodies, vocal blends and poetic insight in songs like “Something Real.” On the track “Cordova,” they remember Native American campaigners and relay environmental issues.

Together for 19 years, this acoustic duo shows they can still surprise listeners with songs like Amy Ray’s mellow “Heartache for Everyone” and Emily Saliers’ sugar-coated “Fill It Up Again.” With a combination of folk, rock and alternative, the Indigo Girls are a strong presence in their genre.

—Arlee Rosenberg

Dead Stars
Three Gut Records

Al Okada’s latest project with vocalist Tamara Williamson takes some getting used to.

Following the first track — which makes for an enticing introduction — some of the shorter cuts resonate like the garbled background noise of a movie soundtrack. Dead Stars takes listeners on a serene space odyssey before arriving at the title track, a 23 minute trip-hop epic; the final track boasts multiple gunshots fired in rapid sequence while children play.

The harmonious mood is offset by the sadistic sounds, as listeners are sling-shot back into reality at the end of the disc.

If Mircrobunny sparks your interest, check out their London release show at Call the Office on Friday, Mar. 26.

—Erol Özberk



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